26 Andover students qualified for state-level competition after attending the Massachusetts District 5 Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) conference on January 7. The conference, held at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, brought 37 Andover students together with students from nearby schools for a day of competitive speeches, presentations, and role-play activities related to business and entrepreneurship.
According to the DECA website, “DECA’s industry-validated competitive events are aligned with the National Curriculum Standards in the career clusters of marketing, business management and administration, finance, and hospitality and tourism.”
Ronit Gupta ’20, Co-Head of DECA at Andover, explained that the competition itself consisted of two parts. First, participants took marketing cluster exams distributed by DECA on campus. Later, during the conference, they presented impromptu case studies about their chosen topic in front of a judge.
“The competition is two parts… Every student takes a multiple-choice test as the first part of the competition. But then on a day in January… we went to a competition at UMass Lowell… [Participants were] given an impromptu case study, depending on which area of business or finance or marketing they chose, and they had to do a presentation in front of a judge either individually or in pairs,” said Gupta.
To prepare for the impromptu speaking aspect of the competition, participants studied terminology and sample cases provided by the club and DECA website. Nicole Jo ’21, who was awarded first place in the Food Marketing Series category, used Quizlet and YouTube videos to prepare for her roleplay activity during the competition.
“I took the terms I found in the study guide that [Gupta] sent over, and I put them into a Quizlet. And I continued to memorize the terminology I needed to compete with. And then I just watched a lot of roleplay examples on YouTube,” Jo said.
For the impromptu speaking part, students had only ten minutes to review their case studies before presenting in front of a judge. Having previous experience in DECA, Nina Choophungart ’22, who scored first place in the Marketing Skills category, was able to completely re-market a fictional shoe brand within the time crunch.
“There was this brand that was called CostLess shoes, and they wanted us to re-market the brand because the brand was losing money at that moment… I redesigned the shoe… and chose a target market for…28 to 40 years old[s]. And then I just talked about marketing strategies to get those people to know about the brand, and talked about taglines or how to get sponsorships,” said Choophungart.
Choophungart continued, “I think what was challenging was that we only had 10 minutes to prepare for the case. So then it was a time crunch. But I think everyone who competed managed well.”
Students’ success in speaking events allows Andover DECA to send many students to the statewide competition in Boston this February. According to Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services and advisor to the club, 26 out of 37 of Andover students who attended the conference qualified for the state conference. To be eligible, participants needed to place within the top seven qualifying spots in their event. Gupta and Christy Wei ’21, a DECA board member, hope to send a large amount of eligible participants to the competition.
“If you’re top seven in the event in our district, then you qualify for state… And then to see so many people qualify for state, hopefully we’ll be able to attend. Most likely we’ll have people representing from Andover, if not everyone—a good portion,” explained Gupta.
Wei added in an email to The Phillipian, “Right now, we are focusing on bringing more business-related speakers to school, and bringing all the students who qualified [for] the state competition in late February in Boston.”
The prospect of attending the state competition is exciting for many new and experienced DECA members. According to Wei, many underclassmen who attended placed within the top three spots of their categories. Jo, who attended the state conference last year, is eager to meet new people and continue learning through competitive experience.
Jo shared, “I went to [State’s] last year, so I’m kind of looking forward to meeting new people [again]… And learning more through competition, because I think that’s the best way to learn to be better at DECA, because at state’s you do two role-plays instead of one.”
Gupta believes that regional, state, and national DECA conferences give students a unique opportunity to gain business experience outside of a classroom setting.
“DECA is the only club on campus that teaches kind of fundamental business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and finance skills in a competitive-based way… So we think that it’s a really good way to get students interested in business and have them learn about how to solve business problems in a real life scenario,” said Gupta.